One of the main outcomes of the Screen Plays research project in intended to be a freely accessible online database of all British television productions since 1930 of plays written for the theatre. Our main model for this resource – and in many ways the inspiration for the project — is Shakespeare: An International Database of Shakespeare on Film, Television and Radio from the British Universities Film & Video Council. This Shakespeare database features around 7,000 records and is a truly wonderful scholarly resource, but its utility has just been enhanced considerably by its integration with eight other databases in what the BUFVC is pleased to call ‘an integrated search environment’.
You are forgiven, if indeed you have continued reading, if your immediate reaction is a yawn. But this is important for the ways in which all of us, and not just academics, will access information in the future. The new search environment brings together thirteen million records about film, television and radio — and it points the way towards simpler and more useful access to information in a host of other databases created by institutions beyond the BUFVC.
As a BUFVC media release explains,
Increasing quantities of archive film, television and radio content are available, but the content is usually delivered as stand-alone collections, with users needing to know where to look before they begin their research. The BUFVC federated search environment will transform moving image and sound resource discovery by replacing the need for researchers to locate and access various databases and collections through multiple channels.
The project, which is currently called All BUFVC, remains in a beta testing phase, and a substantial part of it (such as TVTip, an online version of TV Times listings) is accessible only to BUFVC members and users from the Higher and Further education sectors. Also, TRiLT, which contains listings of programmes since 1995 from three hundred channels, can only be accessed beyond the past fortnight by BUFVC members. Much of the audio material in the radio databases is also restricted. Even so, the elements that are fully open are still very useful.
A search on ‘Terence Rattigan’, for example, the playwright whose centenary is celebrated this year brings up the readings over the past week on BBC Radio 4 Extra from Michael Darlow’s biography together with various versions of his plays that have been released on VHS and DVD. If you are fortunate to have an educational log-in, then the number of records returned jumps from thirteen to forty-seven including an intriguing TV Times listing for a Television Playhouse production for ITV of Rattigan’s The Browning Version in 1958.
But don’t just take my word for it. Luke McKernan is the Lead Curator, Moving Image at The British Library and an expert on databases. He also blogs at The Bioscope which is the essential site for lovers of silent cinema. In his celebration of All BUFVC he writes:
[the federated search facility] does just about everything right that you would want to see from such a resource. Enter any search term and and result[s] come up with title, short descriptions and some cheery icons which let you know database they come from, what genre type (e.g. radio, newsreel), what medium (e.g. film, sound) and whether any digital content is available online (subject to your particular status). Individual records provide further information, depending on the nature of the original database.
You can used the Advanced Search to refine searches by date, date range, medium, collection, availability, and genre. You can rate records, trace your pre[v]ious searches, order search results by relevance, date or title, and results can be exported in XML format, as text or in citation format. There is first-rate faceting (i.e. letting you know how many of your search results break down into particular categories[)], and it even offers serendipitious related searches. What fun.